(March 13, 2015) Tears filled the eyes of the Stephen Decatur Lady Seahawks Monday night after their 67-43 loss to the Westlake Wolverines, as the reality set in that their basketball season was over.
“Prior to the game, we didn’t even consider this might be our last game…after the game, the reality that the season is over was tough,” said Decatur Coach Amy Fenzel-Mergott. “We came out strong, we were making our baskets, we did a lot of really good things and I think that kind of surprised them. Then in the second half, we couldn’t hold it together. We couldn’t make our foul shots. We weren’t making our shots and they were.”
The score was tied 15-15 at the end of the first quarter in Berlin. Westlake, the No. 1 seed in Section II of the 3A South Region, outscored Decatur, the top seed in Section I, 17-10 in the second quarter to go into the halftime break ahead 32-25.
Westlake led 48-36 after three quarters.
“I think we played really well. We just kind of got unlucky with our shots,” said senior captain Jillian Petito. “Our hustle was there, our heart was there, it just didn’t happen for us. All of them were like a foot taller than us and they all play basketball year round. They definitely had the advantage, but I think we stuck with them pretty well.”
Petito finished the game with four points and three steals. Junior Dayona Godwin was Decatur’s top producer with 18 points, five assists and three steals.
Senior captain Marina Jones and freshman Amya Mumford tallied six points each. Senior Payton VanKirk had five points and five rebounds.
“We never gave up the entire game. I’m just so proud of my team,” VanKirk said. “To make it to this point is such an accomplishment for us…I just want to thank everyone who came out to support us these past four years. The community support and the fans that have come out made it all worthwhile.”
Decatur advanced to the regional championship game after edging out the No. 2 Northern Patriots, 51-48, in the sectional finals last Saturday in Berlin.
“We didn’t have our best game. For us to miss that many foul shots, for us to not be in sync on offense, for us to have some issues with our press, I think we did all right,” Fenzel-Mergott said. “I think that we had some people step up at key times.”
Decatur led 16-12 after one quarter of play. The Seahawks held a 24-21 advantage over Northern going into the halftime break.
Points were traded in the third quarter and with 1:54 remaining, the score was tied 29-29. With a few seconds on the clock, Petito hit a long three from the top of the key to put Decatur on top 34-32 at the end of the third.
The squads went shot-for-shot in the fourth quarter. With 59.8 seconds on the clock, Godwin scored and was fouled. She made her free throw to give Decatur a 49-48 lead.
Mumford was fouled and hit one of two shots with 33 seconds remaining.
Godwin picked off a Northern pass with six seconds left and as she drove to the basket she was fouled. She made her first free throw to provide Decatur with a three-point cushion.
“At first it was a big relief [to get the steal], but then when I got it I knew they were going to foul,” Godwin said. “I knew I had been missing my foul shots all night so I was kind of scared. When I made the first one I felt better.”
Godwin finished the game with 29 points and four steals.
“We knew we didn’t play well. Everyone just came together and we got the win,” Godwin said.
Petito chipped in with seven points, five rebounds and five steals.
“Jillian got some key steals right when we needed them and took the momentum away from the other team,” Fenzel-Mergott said.
VanKirk had six points and six rebounds.
The Seahawks enjoyed a successful season. They finished the year with a 24-2 record. Decatur was on a 23-game win streak before Monday’s loss. The Seahawks previous loss was on Dec. 9 to the Mardela Warriors, 72-63.
Decatur also captured the Bayside Conference championship for the first time since 1977.
“That was one of our goals,” VanKirk said. “It was huge accomplishment, something that we have dreamt of for so many years.”
After Monday’s regional finals, Fenzel-Mergott thanked the girls for their dedication and for doing what was asked of them this season.
“This season is one for the record books. Not just with our winning, but coming together and how well we played,” Fenzel-Mergott said. “They’re such a great group of girls.”
The squad will lose five players to graduation–Petito, VanKirk, Jones, Allison Beck and Blair Yesko.
“I’m so proud of all my teammates and I wish them good luck next year,” said Petito, a four-year player. “We’ve definitely improved every single year. Mrs. Fenzel-Mergott helped all of us become better players. We showed what we can do and that we’re not just a bunch of lacrosse girls, that we’re basketball players too.”
Petito has signed to play Division I lacrosse for Mount St. Mary’s.
VanKirk also enjoyed being a member of the Decatur basketball team for four seasons. She is headed to University of Maryland Baltimore County to compete for the school’s Division I lacrosse team.
“It was such an amazing season. One I will always remember,” VanKirk said. “Being on this team is like no other I’ve been on. The energy, the love and the teamwork that we have and the bond is just unreal.”
Despite losing key contributors, several talented players plan to return next season, including Godwin. In three seasons, she has scored a total of 1,395 points. This year alone she netted 504 points.
Elise Mercer (2001-2005) holds the all-time leading scoring record with 1,494 points.
“I think [Godwin] is going to break [the record] early next year,” Fenzel-Mergott said.